“We understand people are in need, but their lives are just as important. We could not bring payment dates forward because the government, which receives its revenue at month-end, would need to borrow the funds at high interest rates.”
She said that in future elderly and disabled people would be paid on the fourth of every month, and child support and caregiver grant recipients on the sixth.
“We are also looking at staggering additional payment dates, which will see the number of people having to queue for their payouts limited to help with social distancing,” she said.
“Soon our offices, which have been shut because of the outbreak, will be reopening and will operate at 30% capacity, with employees working in shifts.”
She said the automation of systems was the key to resolving any future problems.
“That is why we turned to e-vouchers, which can be sent to any cellphone, can be used at any retailer, are not limited in value, can be used to purchase any items and have no time period in which they must be used.”
Black Sash national advocacy manager Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker said the R350 Covid-19 grant fell way below the R1,200 poverty line indicated by Stats SA. “The grant will barely buy more than a loaf of bread to eat every day,” she said.
For years, Sassa has been dogged by legal battles and controversy. Since ending its controversial contract with Cash Paymaster Services in 2017, which saw the closure of nearly 8,000 pay points, and signing a new contract with the Post Office, Sassa has had the administrative nightmare of ensuring that 18-million grants are paid on time and in full, with beneficiaries often queuing for hours.